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Open Access Research article

Use of HLA-B27 tetramers to identify low-frequency antigen-specific T cells in Chlamydia-triggered reactive arthritis

Heiner Appel1*, Wolfgang Kuon1, Maren Kuhne1, Peihua Wu12, Stefanie Kuhlmann1, Simon Kollnberger3, Andreas Thiel2, Paul Bowness3 and Joachim Sieper12

Author Affiliations

1 Charite Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Department for Gastroenterology, Infectiology and Rheumatology, Berlin, Germany

2 Deutsches Rheumaforschungszentrum Berlin, Germany

3 MRC HIU, Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK

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Arthritis Res Ther 2004, 6:R521-R534  doi:10.1186/ar1221

Published: 23 September 2004

Abstract

Reports of the use of HLA-B27/peptide tetrameric complexes to study peptide-specific CD8+ T cells in HLA-B27+-related diseases are rare. To establish HLA-B27 tetramers we first compared the function of HLA-B27 tetramers with HLA-A2 tetramers by using viral epitopes. HLA-B27 and HLA-A2 tetramers loaded with immunodominant peptides from Epstein–Barr virus were generated with comparable yields and both molecules detected antigen-specific CD8+ T cells. The application of HLA-B27 tetramers in HLA-B27-related diseases was performed with nine recently described Chlamydia-derived peptides in synovial fluid and peripheral blood, to examine the CD8+ T cell response against Chlamydia trachomatis antigens in nine patients with Chlamydia-triggered reactive arthritis (Ct-ReA). Four of six HLA-B27+ Ct-ReA patients had specific synovial T cell binding to at least one HLA-B27/Chlamydia peptide tetramer. The HLA-B27/Chlamydia peptide 195 tetramer bound to synovial T cells from three of six patients and HLA-B27/Chlamydia peptide 133 tetramer to synovial T cells from two patients. However, the frequency of these cells was low (0.02–0.09%). Moreover, we demonstrate two methods to generate HLA-B27-restricted T cell lines. First, HLA-B27 tetramers and magnetic beads were used to sort antigen-specific CD8+ T cells. Second, Chlamydia-infected dendritic cells were used to stimulate CD8+ T cells ex vivo. Highly pure CD8 T cell lines could be generated ex vivo by magnetic sorting by using HLA-B27 tetramers loaded with an EBV peptide. The frequency of Chlamydia-specific, HLA-B27 tetramer-binding CD8+ T cells could be increased by stimulating CD8+ T cells ex vivo with Chlamydia-infected dendritic cells. We conclude that HLA-B27 tetramers are a useful tool for the detection and expansion of HLA-B27-restricted CD8+ T cells. T cells specific for one or more of three Chlamydia-derived peptides were found at low frequency in synovial fluid from HLA-B27+ patients with Ct-ReA. These cells can be expanded ex vivo, suggesting that they are immunologically functional.

Keywords:
HLA-B27; T cells; tetramers; reactive arthritis